Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome are both expected to sign large extensions with the Blackhawks in the future.

The Chicago Blackhawks have made significant changes to improve their roster this offseason. They made trades to acquire Calvin de Haan, Olli Maatta, Andrew Shaw, and Zack Smith. The ‘Hawks followed that up by signing Robin Lehner and Ryan Carpenter during free agency. There’s no doubt that this team is in much better shape than they were a few months ago.

With all the offseason acquisitions though, there’s less money to throw around to sign free agents next year. AKA Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and potentially Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford.

It’s hard to estimate what Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome would command at this moment, but it’s not going to be cheap. With DeBrincat, Strome, Lehner, Crawford, Gustafsson, Caggiula, and Koekkoek coming off the books next year, the Blackhawks are expected to have roughly $19.6 million in cap space according to CapFriendly. Now obviously DeBrincat and Strome are likely to be re-signed, as well as one of Lehner or Crawford. So realistically, the Blackhawks have little wiggle room financially. Stan Bowman is going to have to be cautious with how he pays DeBrincat and Strome.

An Educated Guess at DeBrincat and Strome’s Next Contract

Looking at DeBrincat and Strome’s recent production, it’s obvious they’re going to get paid a significant chunk of that $19.6 million. DeBrincat scored 40 goals in his sophomore season last year and has yet to miss a game at the NHL level. He’s recorded 128 points through his first 164 games. As for Dylan Strome, he struggled to produce during his tenure with the Arizona Coyotes. When he came to the Blackhawks last season though, things changed in a hurry. Strome recorded 51 points (17G, 34A) in 58 games in Chicago and looked like a legitimate line-two center. He’s proved less than DeBrincat has at this point of his career, but he’s been impressive nonetheless.

Just for fun, let’s take a stab at what DeBrincat and Strome could get paid for their past production. Looking at Alex DeBrincat, it makes sense to start around the $8 million mark. He’s a proven 40 goal scorer and won’t turn 22 until December. Vladimir Tarasenko, who averages around 30-40 goals per season, has a current cap hit of $7.5 million. Leon Draisaitl, another notorious goal-scorer, has a cap hit of $8.5 million per year. Elite players like Sidney Crosby and PK Subban are around the $9 million mark. DeBrincat may not be at that level yet, but he very well could be on his way. With the salary cap continuing to go up annually, it’s not crazy to think DeBrincat will receive around $8.5 million per year.

As for Dylan Strome, it’s fair to assume he’ll receive less because he’s been producing at this rate for just 58 games. It’s tough to compare Strome to any other player in the league because of this. A near point-per-game pace is a big deal, but Strome hasn’t done it for a long enough time. $5.5 million is a decent starting place, and that’s what Gustav Nyquist just received from the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason. Last year Nyquist recorded 60 points in 81 games between two teams, which is a little less than what Strome was on pace for in a full season with the Blackhawks.

Nick Schmaltz, the man the Blackhawks traded to Arizona to acquire Strome, signed a seven-year, $41 million extension with a cap hit of $5.85 million. Schmaltz is a little more proven than Strome, but not by much. With the cap continuing to go up, around $6 million sounds reasonable for Dylan Strome. Some current players with a $6 million cap hit are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jake Guentzel, and Nikolaj Ehlers.

Why Waiting Could Be Problematic

The current problem with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome is that they’re more than likely willing to gamble on themselves this season. While DeBrincat could come back down to earth and score less than 40 goals this year, there’s also the chance that he pots 50. Dylan Strome is going to play with some talented players and has the opportunity to prove that he can produce at a point-per-game pace for an entire season. They’re both likely in no hurry to get a deal done.

If the Blackhawks are unable to get a deal done with DeBrincat and Strome until next offseason, then they are going to have to be even more cautious with their money. At the moment, it appears that DeBrincat and Strome will command at least $14 million. That could easily turn into $15 million or more if they both have terrific seasons.

Goaltending is going to be a priority once again next offseason, and both Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford are going to be free agents. With DeBrincat and Strome needing new contracts as well, it’s going to be nearly impossible to re-sign both Lehner and Crawford. Hell, it’s going to be a challenge to re-sign one of them. The Blackhawks are in a tough spot financially, but there is a lot that could happen in the next year to change that. Just look at how different the roster is from 365 days ago.

Here’s to hoping that Stan Bowman can make it all work out when the time comes.

For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman2) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@TalkHawkey).